Last year while studying abroad, I ate my weight in every country I visited. The food abroad is not only cheaper, but so much better (sorry, America). Although I didn’t get to everywhere across Europe I’d hoped to, I took note of the number one thing I’d recommend from each country. With a little help from my friends (and the internet), I’ve compiled a list of the European dishes and drinks you can’t miss while traveling.
Austria: Spätzle and Glüwein
Imagine the best mac-n-cheese you’ve ever had, then make it 10 times creamier, cheesier and topped with fried onions. Now it’s spätzle: a gnocchi-like, potato filled pasta.
Glüwein is a heated concotion full of spices and flavor – also known as mulled wine. You can find these traditionally German dishes all across Europe, but most notably at the Viennese Christmas Markets.
Belgium: Waffles and Cookie Beer
I don’t have to tell you twice, get a Belgian waffle and pile it high with ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel or whipped cream. These waffles are denser, smaller and sweeter than the ones in America.
If you’re a fan of cookie butter, you have to try Belgium’s cookie beer. Your move, Trader Joe’s.
Croatia: Pizza Rolls and Frozen Mojitos
One of the few uniquely Croatian foods, pizza rolls can be found in the seaside town, Split. Locals there will claim Emperor Diocletian even invented pizza.
Although mojitos originated in Cuba, there’s nothing quite like sipping on one of these while watching the sunset in Split.
Czech Republic: Trdelníks & Pilsner Urquell Beer
I can personally attest that this Czech dessert is not pronounced, “turtleneck.” Avoid the embarrassment, but make sure you eat one of these cynlindrical pastries filled with chocolate or ice cream.
The world’s first Pilsner beer was brewed here in 1842. Make sure to czech it out while you’re in town.
Denmark: Æbleskiver and Carlsberg
Æbleskiver are like beignets but better. The name literally means “apple slices,” but they typically don’t actually contain apples. Try them in Copenhagen, where they’re served with powdered sugar, Nutella, and jam.
Have the “exbeerience” of a lifetime at the Carlsberg Brewery in Cope. See the world’s largest beer bottle collection, ride a horse and take in the scenery.
England: Tea & Scones
No one does tea and scones quite like the British. You’ll never be able to go back to the dry, triangular American scones.
If you’re anywhere in the UK, make sure to have high tea complete with jam, clotted cream, and your own tea pot.
France: Macarons and Champagne
You may be able to get Ladurée in the States, but there’s nothing like eating them along the Champs-Élyssés. Locals actually prefer Pierre Hermé, a smaller bakery with unique flavors like “Olive Oil and Vanilla.”
Champagne is produced in a small a region of France, and must follow a number of regulations to be named as such. Get a bottle and take a few classic photos in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Germany: Pretzels and Hofbräuhaus Beer
Yes, that is me, and yes, that pretzel is bigger than my face. Munich is must for anyone who studies abroad: get there for Oktoberfest (surprise – it’s actually two weekends of September!) or Frühlingsfest (a.k.a. Springfest, which occurs in April).
Everything in Germany pairs well with a giant stein of Hofbräuhaus beer. This beer is the American college student’s drink of choice in Munich, even though they cost 12 Euro.
Greece: Sfougata and Ouzo
Three words: deep. fried. cheese. Trust me, this tastes even better than it looks. Greece is also known for its kebabs and gyros, but you can get those both in the States.
Known as the national drink of Greece, Ouzo is an anise flavored spirit (meaning it tastes a bit like licorice). It’s often served with a cheese plate appetizer.
Hungary: Dobostorta and Pálinka
This Hungarian delicacy is has layers of sponge cake interspersed with chocolate buttercream, and a top layer of caramel sauce. If you need me, I’ll be in Budapest eating dessert forever.
The most famous spirit of Hungary, pálinka a fruit brandy made with local fruits. Many Hungarians consider it a medicine – they use it as a cure for hangovers, headaches, and the like.
Iceland: Skyr and Brennivín
Pronounced “skeer,” skyr was eaten by the Vikings (and John Snow, probably) during long winters. It’s actually not yogurt – it’s skim milk cheese, which you can now buy at home thanks to Siggi’s Dairy.
Although it doesn’t pair well with skyr, this unsweetened schnapps is Iceland’s signature distilled spirit. Traditionally, it was drunk with the mid-winter feast.
Ireland: Fish & Chips and Guiness Beer
Grab a bite at Leo Burdock’s in Dublin, the famed fish and chip fast food restaurant. These make for the perfect afternoon snack or pub food.
The famous Irish “black beer,” Guinness can be found in every restaurant and pub around. Learn to pour the perfect pint and hear about the history of Guinness at the old Storehouse. The tour ends with a panoramic view of Dublin and is perfect for photo ops.
Italy: Gelato and Chianti Wine
Although Italian pasta is unparalleled, it’s gelato that steals the show. Don’t you dare go a day without it while visiting Italy.
#SpoonTip: Avoid gelaterias that have the gelato piled high in mountains; it likely means that they don’t make it fresh each day.
Take a tour of Tuscany to learn about the Sangiovese grapes within the wines of Italy. It’s nearly impossible to find bad wine here: try the 2 Euro bottles at the store or and the house wine in restaurants.
Netherlands: Poffertjes and Heineken Beer
The Dutch do pancakes for all occasions, both sweet and savory. Poffertjes are their specialty mini pancakes. Load them up with ice cream, fresh fruit and syrup.
No tour of Amsterdam is complete without a trip to the Heineken Experience. Although it’s basically a giant ad for the company, your ticket includes three beers of the famed Dutch beer.
Portugal: Bacalhau and Ginjinha
Portugal’s famous salt cod stew is said to come in over 1,000 different recipes. You can find it on nearly every menu in the country.
This Portuguese drink is made by infusing ginja berries (sour cherries) with alcohol, then adding lots of sugar. Too many shots of this sweet liquor will leave you with a bad hangover the next morning.
Scotland: Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and Atholl Brose
Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (aka heart, liver and lungs). Neeps are turnips and tatties are mashed potatoes. The name is just so too fun to pass up this dish.
Atholl Brose is a mix of oatmeal brose, honey, whisky and cream. It’s a particular favorite on particularly on festive occasions like New Year’s Eve.
Spain: Paella and Sangria
This Valencian rice dish dates back to the 19th century and has become known as the national dish of Spain (although Spaniards might tell you differently). Grab some friends to devour a giant pan of seafood paella.
Named after the Spanish word sangre (blood), traditional sangria is made with red wine, fresh fruit and brandy. Pairs perfectly with paella and a Spanish sunset.
Sweden: Potatis, Köttbullar och Lingonsylt and Schnapps
You’ve likely heard of Swedish meatballs, but ever had them with potatoes and lingonberry jam? Meatballs are the centerpiece of nearly every Swedish meal.
Absolut Vodka is likely the most famous drink from Sweden, but not the most authentic. Polish off your meatballs with some schnapps and the traditional drinking song, Helan går.
Switzerland: Raclette Cheese and Rivella
Spoiler alert: everything you’ve ever known about Swiss cheese is a lie. There are hundreds of different Swiss cheeses that exist such as emmenthal, gruyère, and raclette. Wheels of cheese are sliced in half, melted over a fire, and then poured onto bread, potatoes, or veggies.
The Swiss love their lactose. Rivella is a carbonated soda made from milk whey, but tastes like Sprite. Skip the Swiss Miss hot cocoa and go for a soda instead.